Weinsteingate Comes to Brussels: EU Parliament ‘An Absolute Hotbed of Sexual Harassment’

An investigation has revealed that the European Parliament is a “hotbed of sexual harassment”, where senior MEPs who “feel they can do whatever they want” prey on young women.

The Sunday Times reports speaking to over a dozen junior staffers — professional, multilingual women, some graduates of the College of Europe which trains people to work for the EU’s standing bureaucracy — who suffered the unwanted attentions of older, often married European politicians.

Some of the allegations levelled are very serious, with at least one MEP accused of masturbating in front of a young aide.

One woman described how a prominent MEP — almost 60, with a wife and two children — cornered her in a lift, where he began touching her and whispering lewd remarks.

“He was stroking my hair, then my neck, going down my back … I just froze, I was petrified,” she said.

“I told my colleague, who said I should report him, but in the end I didn’t … I was afraid of losing my job, of facing the embarrassment and ruining my career.”

This was a common theme among the alleged victims, who all asked to remain anonymous, and for their alleged abusers to remain nameless too — fearing retaliation.

One politician the newspaper did name was Yves Cochet, the 71-year-old former French environment minister and Green Party MEP.

Journalists said they saw text messages the septuagenarian lothario had sent to the 25-year-old assistant of another MEP, saying he wanted to discuss her “passions, dreams and fantasies” and admonishing her for declining an invitation to dinner.

“I know it’s a cliché, an old man asking out a pretty young woman. But are you afraid of what people will say? Or afraid of me? … do you maybe tremble with a delicious yet disconcerting expectation?”

Another 24-year-old assistant — a qualified lawyer — described how a leading MEP from Germany “stalked” her in meetings and, finally, made “unpleasant advances” on her.

“He stretched out his hand to block my way as I was leaving the conference room, touching my chest, and started talking to me, giving me compliments on my appearance,” she said.

“It’s a question of power: my first reaction was to think whether I was wearing something provocative for him to behave like that. MEPs feel powerful because they can fire assistants whenever they like, and they are almost entirely outside the media spotlight … they feel they can do whatever they want.”

This is not the first time the European Union’s leading men have been accused of behaving inappropriately.

In March 2017, Polish MP Krystyna Pawłowicz charged Jean-Claude Juncker — a former MEP who currently occupies the post of President of the European Commission — with “particularly distasteful” behaviour towards women “who were certainly too polite to ask you to take a rest” at an audience with Pope Francis.

The law lecturer also accused the eurocrat of “obvious alcohol dependency”, and said his actions brought the EU into disrepute.

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